Finding a new Carnegie Public Library director, determining the board officer and the resignation of Trustee Jennifer Joyner were just some of the key discussion items during Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.
Interim library director Mary Caradine requested permission to advertise for a new director. Floyd Council resigned from the position in April.
Chair Shelia Winters said the matter had been tabled and the board has a year to hire someone.
Caradine said she made sure the position could be advertised since the library is dealing with legal issues. She said since Council resigned, there could be an advertisement.
The Mississippi Library Commission will work with the board to hire a director.
The board’s vote was unanimous to advertise for a search for a new director.
The board, which has 10 seats, had one fewer member at Tuesday’s meeting. Jennifer Joyner wrote a two-page letter of resignation.
Joyner said in her letter she would not be a part of “frivolous wasting of taxpayers’ money.”
“I am resigning with a clear conscience that I, along with a few other board members, did take many actions to try and protect the library and the board from litigation due to a dictatorship personality and behavior,” said Joyner in the letter. “I want to go on record that I did propose an update to the bylaws to remove a board member for misconduct. It was shortly realized that we did not have the 7/3 vote according to Robert’s Rules of Orders to pass. The Bylaws were never updated. There are 10 board members that serve on the library board of trustees and some are not individuals and always vote the same. There are other great members that have varied opinions and try to cast informed votes that feel are the best decisions for the library.”
Joyner also talked about the way she felt she had been treated.
“Lastly, some have tried to frame our disagreements as a race issue. This is another reason why I am stepping down. I can no longer be an effective board member because I have been unfairly labeled a racist when I try to ask questions or make reasonable objections to decisions that I feel are harmful to the library. I have been called this on several accounts when I would question things or disagree. I, along with another board member, were referred to as “you people”. This has been documented and it is also on recorded Zoom meetings. The entire board, including our council, were on the call and were witnesses to this offensive treatment. This accusation has saddened me deeply. We will never progress as a country or a community if we cannot learn to disagree and have healthy discussions between all races. My personal feeling is that God made us all in his like image. I judge based on character, not color, and my husband and I have raised our children the same.”
Debate about appointing a board chair and other officers surfaced both at the beginning and the end of the meeting. The new fiscal year begins October 1.
Board attorney Ted Connell was not in the Zoom meeting to discuss legal issues.
Winters said on several occasions during the meeting Connell would not be let in until he was needed since he bills the library for his time.
Board vice chair Nancy Foley asked if the dispute about officers would be discussed during the meeting.
“I didn’t know we had a dispute,” said Winters, adding it would be addressed in new business.
Foley said Joyner asked Winters if she would remain as chair in the following term at the previous meeting.
“Would someone read the statement that was made about the chair position?” Foley said. “It’s in the minutes.”
Foley said one sentence in the minutes from the previous meeting were inaccurate.
“I want to know what’s inaccurate,” said board secretary Jacqueline Tyler.
Tyler said the state department told her minutes did not have to be word for word. Just the question and answer have to be listed.
Foley said too much about the board chair was in the minutes.
“That added stuff was not said at the meeting,” she said.
Board member Christopher Coleman brought up how Connell was trying to get into the meeting.
“Ted is to come in when we requested him to come in,” said Winters, adding Connell charges to come to the meetings.
Later in the meeting, Winters said she became chair after former chair Elizabeth Gibbons stepped down from the board.
“Unfortunately, she did not complete her term so I had to step out and carry her term,” Winters said.
Winters said, according to Article 6, if a board chair leaves, the vice chair carries out the term.
“I carried out Elizabeth’s term,” Winters said. “However, I was next in line anyway to become the chair of the board. So, I am here today and I will be on October 1 to step into that role. I will be ready to step into that role.”
Winters said there could be an election for a board chair, but every board has bylaws. She took issue with Foley.
“You have served in this position, but you have been no service to me since you’ve been in this position,” said Winters, adding Foley has undermined her, tried to get her out of her position as chair and talked about her to several people in Clarksdale.
“Tonight, this will stop,” Winters said. “You will no longer say anything about me in the public.
“I am not going to tolerate it from you. I am not going to tolerate it from anybody else.”
Winters said Foley complained about her to the Mississippi Library Commission. She added she has tried to work with Foley to no avail.
“Lady, when are you going to stop? Winters said. “It’s not enough, Ms. Foley. I’m just really tired of what you’ve been doing, of what all of you all have been doing.
“It’s a sense of entitlement and I’m not accepting it anymore.”
Foley again tried to get Connell into the meeting.
“First of all, I would like you to ask Mr. Connell to join us,” Foley said.
Winters said she was not asking Connell to the meeting.
Foley went back to when Gibbons was elected board chair, Winters was vice chair and Caradine, before she became interim director, was secretary.
“You look at starting with the special called meeting on Nov. 6, 2018 where the officers were elected.” Foley said.
“If you want to say what should have been done, when Ms. Gibbons resigned from the board, you can’t look at our current bylaws. You have to look at the bylaws that were in effect at that time.”
Debate continued as to whether or not there has been an election and when the current term ends – now or one year from now.
Foley expressed interest in the post.
“It’s time for me to serve as chair,” Foley said. “How do you get around that?”
“Ms. Foley, you don’t have a leg to stand on, but we’re going to have an election right here tonight,” said Winters in response.
“You all have kept this library stagnated for two years.”
Tyler felt the board officers should stay as they are.
“We don’t need to take a vote,” said Tyler to Winters. “You still have a year left in your term.”
Winters said she has been chair for not quite two years. She said the term ended in September 2020, but with all of the turnover at the library, she remained the chair.
Coleman said there should not be an election Tuesday as minutes of previous meetings should be reviewed.
“It has turned into pandemonium and we need to end this and come back later,” Foley said.
The matter will be discussed at the next meeting at 5:30 p.m. October 19.
Joyner’s letter of resignation is below.
Resignation letter of Carnegie Public Library Trustee Jennifer Joyner
It brings me great sadness to inform you that I am resigning as a Board of Trustee for the Carnegie Public Library. I appreciate you trusting me as someone you could appoint to this position. I have so many wonderful memories as a young patron and I was honored to serve our community. I wish I could say that it has been a pleasant experience. I have been a board member since September 2019, and the experience has been filled with nothing but chaos and drama since the very first meeting. I had no idea that serving on a library board would bring so much stress into my life.
Due to recent decisions made in executive session that I cannot openly discuss, I can no longer in good faith be a member of this board. I cannot and will not be a participant of frivolous wasting of taxpayers' money.
I am resigning with a clear conscience that I, along with a few other board members, did take many actions to try and protect the library and the board from litigation due to a dictatorship personality and behavior. I want to go on record that I did propose an update to the bylaws to remove a board member for misconduct. It was shortly realized that we did not have the 7/3 vote according to Robert’s Rules of Orders to pass. The Bylaws were never updated. There are 10 board members that serve on the library board of trustees and some are not individuals and ALWAYS vote the same. There are other great members that have varied opinions and try to cast informed votes that feel are the best decisions for the library.
Since it is so hard to remove a board member, there were other measures that were taken to protect the library and board that also cannot be discussed. These events are documented and there are also recordings of these executive session meetings. These recordings will also prove the behavior in question.
Lastly, some have tried to frame our disagreements as a race issue. This is another reason why I am stepping down. I can no longer be an effective board member because I have been unfairly labeled a racist when I try to ask questions or make reasonable objections to decisions that I feel are harmful to the library. I have been called this on several accounts when I would question things or disagree. I, along with another board member, were referred to as “you people”. This has been documented and it is also on recorded Zoom meetings. The entire board, including our council, were on the call and were witnesses to this offensive treatment. This accusation has saddened me deeply. We will never progress as a country or a community if we cannot learn to disagree and have healthy discussions between all races. My personal feeling is that God made us all in his like image. I judge based on character, not color, and my husband and I have raised our children the same.
After the first incident, I wrote an extensive email on March 20, 2020 with my concerns to the board about this language toward me. I warned the entire board about the feelings of the board leadership and how the aggressive behavior was going to eventually get the library into serious trouble with litigation. There was also a Special Call Meeting that was held about this behavior and there is a recording of it.
There is a dire need for board members who understand law, finances, policies and procedures to be able to grasp the manipulation and the personal agenda that is going on with the library. The Carnegie Public Library is one of the oldest establishments in our community. I challenge those in the community that are qualified to come forward and offer their services for you to appoint them. There are some great board members that I have served with that are in fact individuals that vote differently as they see fit. They need qualified help. These boards are the foundation of our community. People want to complain about our community but no one wants to serve and do something about it. My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Prostate Cancer in October 2020. I have remained as a board member for 10 months trying to fulfill my civic duty. I have spent countless valuable hours researching the correct way to take care of the issues at hand.
The board does not receive bank statements, copies of checks, or statements of bills to be paid. We receive QuickBooks reports. I am a business owner and we use QuickBooks for our accounting. These reports can be manipulated. I encourage you, the other leaders and the community to pay close attention to the public documents, specifically insurance payouts, legal fees, and the legal statements. The business of the library cannot be properly managed and educated decisions cannot be made by the opaque information that is given to the board. I honestly believe our library is in a state of emergency.
This entire experience has been extremely stressful and disheartening. My heart goes out to the real victims and that is the staff of the Carnegie Public Library and the children of our community. The staff is down to a small hand full and they have been working under unstable conditions since I have been a board member. They loved the last director, Mr. Floyd Council. It is not true that the board did not know that there was an issue with Mr. Councils last place of employment before hiring him. The majority of the board was very excited about hiring him for the position even with this knowledge.
Lastly, the library is a free source of education for the children of our community. Mississippi is ranked #49 out of 50 in education. Our community suffers from severe poverty situations. The focus of the library should be on programs that will help a child to read. Reading is a way to escape any unfortunate situation, no matter who you are or where you come from. I pray that the right people will come forward and help save our library for the betterment of our community.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve.